The Colts were able to sneak in just under the buzzer, avoiding playing Pro Bowl guard Quenton Nelson this year on the final year of his rookie contract. Nelson and the Colts agreed to a “precedent-setting” four-year, $80MM extension that will include $60MM guaranteed, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
This demolishes the ceiling atop the guard market. Brandon Scherff‘s $16.5MM-per-year Jaguars deal previously held the high-water mark, but Nelson is now on his own tier at the position.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk provides a detailed breakdown, noting that $41MM is guaranteed at signing. That includes a $31MM signing bonus and fully-guaranteed base salaries of $4MM and $6MM in 2022 and ’23, respectively. But it is all but certain that Nelson will hit the $60MM in guarantees that Schefter reported, as an additional $19MM is guaranteed for injury now and becomes fully-guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2023 league year.
The Colts had extended fellow offensive linemen Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith in the last couple of years, so Nelson was, naturally, next in line. General manager Chris Ballard absolutely loves the 26-year-old, calling him a Hall of Fame left guard at times and crediting Nelson as a huge contributor to the success of running back Jonathan Taylor.
Ballard is not off-base at all in his assessment. Since being drafted sixth-overall in 2018, Nelson has been named a first-team All-Pro in every year except last season (when he was named a second-team All-Pro) and has yet to miss being nominated for a Pro Bowl. With just four seasons under his belt, Nelson has the most total All-Pro selections by a guard in franchise history for the Colts and is just the second player in team history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons.
The dependable lineman hadn’t missed a game in his NFL career until he sat out of four contests last season (perhaps the reason he was demoted to only second-team All-Pro). A high ankle sprain caused him to miss three games and he missed a fourth game on the reserve/COVID-19 list later on in the year.
On the point of his health, the Notre Dame alum recently said, “I feel great, no surgeries this offseason. It was just a chance to really work on my body… gaining more range of motion in my joints, more flexibility.”
Talks of reaching an agreement before the start of the regular season were not sounding promising in mid-August, but the eventual deal was considered a “foregone conclusion.” Now the deal is done and Nelson is the highest-paid guard in NFL history. Nelson is well worth the money and will look to continue his dominant play against the Texans tomorrow.